Notes and Editorial Reviews
Orchestral Suite No. 3. Harpsichord Concerto in F,
No. 6. Concerto in d for 3 Violins,
Café Zimmermann (period instruments)
ALPHA 168 (58:31)
This is the fifth, and presumably penultimate, release in Café Zimmerman’s imaginative and possibly unprecedented presentation of Bach’s “concerts avec plusiers instrumnents,” better known
to us as his
. Bach assembled the set in a fruitless attempt to solicit patronage from the Margrave of Brandenburg, whose reward for neglecting these unparalleled masterpieces is to have his title (if not his name) remembered for all time. Café Zimmermann, a small, multinational period-instrument ensemble based in France, is raising Bach’s ante by releasing the
s one per disc, along with most of the other concertos—some in reconstructions—and the orchestral suites.
I haven’t heard the first three discs in the series, but I did have the privilege of auditioning Volume 4 for
33: 1. The present disc only reinforces my reaction to its predecessor, which was emphatically positive. The concertos are played in chamber fashion, as likely was the case at Leipzig’s Café Zimmermann, from which our heroes have taken their name, where Bach’s concerts with the Collegium Musicum took place. The ensemble is expanded modestly for the suite in order to balance the three trumpets with a fuller string sound. The performances combine sparkling virtuosity, infectious zest, and scrupulous attention to our latest understanding of Bach’s musical practice, and compare favorably with the very best versions available. They should put the names of Café Zimmermann’s founders and artistic leaders, violinist Pablo Valetti and harpsichordist Céline Frisch, in the minds of anyone who treasures this incomparable music.
It remains for the listener to decide whether Café Zimmermann’s release strategy is right for him or her. If the attraction is the
s, should you have to buy all six discs to get them? Personally, I prefer homogeneous packages from which I can devise my own programs, and hunting for individual works in a mixed collection can be inconvenient (though I encounter that all the time with the cantatas). On the other hand, Café Zimmermann’s ready-made programs provide instant variety and satisfying listening experiences. Plus, you get all that wonderful music and all those amazing performances.
FANFARE: George Chien
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